• Personalization of learning – Education leaders, including state leaders, continue to examine how educators can personalize learning for students. Personalization can range from flexible pacing of learning, flexible content, and a variety of ways for students to demonstrate their learning. Many states, districts, and schools are also shifting towards standards-based grading which examines mastery of learning of the standards rather than an average of a collection of assignments. K-2 teachers have been masters of personalized and mastery based learning for decades, but taking this approach at scale in the upper grades with more students to manage, typically requires the use of quality systems that are easy-to-use, with data analytics that allow teachers to quickly see and understand where their students are along their mastery progression.
• Evolution of learning materials – States have been on a steady shift from print textbooks to digital learning materials for many years. Savvy state education leaders understand that in order to properly leverage digital instructional content, whether free or purchased, teachers need a place to store and share those materials, and a way to organize these materials for student access. While an LMS was once a tool primarily for online or distance learning, typical face-to-face classrooms are increasingly also embracing an LMS to manage their learning materials.
• Innovative assessments and state accountability systems – The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides states with the opportunity to re-examine their statewide accountability systems and summative assessments. Typical assessment and accountability models require students to sit for lengthy end of year tests. A few states are piloting breaking the single year assessment into 3-4 shorter assessments given throughout the year. Some states are looking at predictive testing models. ESSA does open the door to the opportunity for states to connect assessment with the teaching and learning process through formative and benchmark assessments. This approach marries nicely with efforts around personalized learning and standards based grading, but will rely on assessment systems that focus on mastery learning and quality data analytics.
• College and career readiness – States are keenly focused on graduating students who are ready for college or a career. This is driving collaboration between the K-12 systems and community colleges and 4 year institutions in the form of internships, dual enrollments, and early or middle college programs. Students are earning credentials and creating digital portfolios to showcase their work to share with future colleges and employers.
I am thrilled that as I continue to engage with state education leaders across the country, I get to learn about the problems of practice that seem to permeate from state to state. When these leaders get together to collectively tackle these challenges, they have the power to make needed change happen. If we all listen, we can learn how we can support them and empower them.
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